Influencers return to Robertson School to share advice, strategies
Mar 3, 2020
Posted in: News
“I am just going to keep it real ... I am grateful,” said rap artist and influencer Nickelus F about his experience at the Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture. Alongside travel and lifestyle influencer Joey Zauzig and beauty influencer Kait Curnow, the rapper was part of a panel for the Robertson School’s Speaker Series about the influencer movement on Feb. 25 at the VCU Commons Theater.
The three Robertson School alumni expressed how instrumental the school was in pursuing their careers and succeeding in a competitive field, from learning new skills and how to use software to developing strong relationships with professors and professionals. “The most important thing for me learning how to use the programs: Premiere, Photoshop, Illustrator,” Nickelus F said. “In the end, I use all that knowledge to create videos, my own album artwork and logos.”
Along with the technical skills of producing his content, Nickelus F shared how faculty and professor helped him better understand his audience. Through the Robertson School, he learned the analytics of his engagement and reach on social media, knowledge that allows him to grow his audience.
“I think just the openness and creativity that VCU exudes opened to me in my mind that I could do whatever it is I want,” Zauzig said. “I learned so much academically and socially.”
Curnow said the Robertson School gave her a good combination of creative writing and social media management, but also helped her understand the marketing industry. She said the public relations program of the school helped her bring her brand to life and gave her the tools to make it happen.
“You have like this personal side, you want to let your personality show but then, there is this serious business side to it,” Curnow said about the balance in the industry that the Robertson School taught her. “There's also a lot of classes that I took that taught me about ethics and risk, so you've got a lot of different things.”
The three influencers enjoyed coming back to VCU to participate in the Robertson School Speaker Series. Along with Robertson School adjunct professor and alumna Hailey Spencer, who moderated the event, all participants said coming back as alumni was an excellent experience.
“It's so nostalgic and I had such a good time really,” Zauzig said. “And it's just funny to be back. It brings back a lot of memories and it's good to reflect on that.”
Curnow called the experience surreal and said she didn’t have words to describe the incredible experience of how her roles have switched.
“I remember when I was going through VCU at the time, there would always be speakers in the Robertson School that graduated and went out to do really amazing things and I never in a million years thought that would be me,” Curnow said. “So it's kind of crazy to be back now and get to do that.”
Nickelus F agreed. “I remember telling myself, one day I will end up being here speaking, but I didn't think it was going to be so soon,” he said.
Spencer was honored to be asked to moderate the lively discussion. “I'm just beyond thrilled and honored and it feels surreal.”
Spencer teaches the online course Influencer Relations (MASC 426). This class presents strategies and best practices for identifying and cultivating strategic relationships with influencers, as well as how to apply their influence to a larger communication strategy. The Speaker Series focused on the marketing strategies from the angle of the influencers.
Joshua Smith, associate professor of public relations and undergraduate public relations sequence coordinator, organized the event and coordinated the visit of the three influencers. Smith said he wanted to offer students the event based on public interest in the influencer movement.
The Speaker Series focused on the growth of the influencer strategy in public relations. Zauzig, Curnow and Nickelus F agreed that the market for influencers is growing and the brands and customers are starting to learn more about it. For Smith, this event was a good opportunity to give students a better approach to this topic.
“It's electric because you have people who are brands themselves talking about and engaging with other brands,” Smith said. “And so, if you're in PR or in advertising or just in media and you want a platform, getting a message out to the masses, influencers are a new way to do that, and like they talked about tonight that that movement is bigger.”